Bird Summons

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Bird Summons [EPUB] ✷ Bird Summons By Leila Aboulela – Polishdarling.co.uk Salma, Moni and Iman are embarking on a road trip to the Highlands to pay homage to Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first British woman convert to Islam to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca The women are looki Salma, Moni and Iman are embarking on a road trip to the Highlands to pay homage to Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first British woman convert to Islam to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca The women are looking for than a holiday Each wants to escape her life each wants an answerSalma came up with the idea for the trip Born in Egypt, she moved to Scotland for love, giving up her right to practise medicine Now a successful masseuse, married to David and bringing up their children, she feels that she still has to make an effort to belong And when her old boyfriend Amir starts messaging her, she is tempted to risk the life she has worked so hard to build Moni has been caring for her disabled son Adam for five years and is reaching breaking point Her husband wants them to join him in Saudi Arabia, but Moni is reluctant to uproot her son, taking him to a country where his condition will render him an outcast Iman, the youngest of the three, in her late twenties and yet on her third husband, is burdened by her beauty Treated like a pet by her lovers and friends, she longs to be alone and freeOn a remote hillside in Inverness, each woman is visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird who comes with fables from Muslim literature and Celtic folklore, forcing the women to question how much they have sacrificed in the name of loveBird Summons is a haunting, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and religion, faith and culture collide confirming Leila Aboulela as a leading storyteller of our times.


10 thoughts on “Bird Summons

  1. Carmen Carmen says:

    This was meant to be the ultimate threat, the winning card If you don t carry the bundle of your crippled son, drape yourself in a black abaya and hop on a plane to Saudi, your husband will take another wife You will be replaced your spot will be taken. pg 155This is a strange book As usual, I went into this novel completely blind I had no idea what it was about I had no information about the book Imagine my surprise when it turned out I was reading magical realism.The book starts off no This was meant to be the ultimate threat, the winning card If you don t carry the bundle of your crippled son, drape yourself in a black abaya and hop on a plane to Saudi, your husband will take another wife You will be replaced your spot will be taken. pg 155This is a strange book As usual, I went into this novel completely blind I had no idea what it was about I had no information about the book Imagine my surprise when it turned out I was reading magical realism.The book starts off normal enough I suggest reading the GR summary, it s excellent Three Muslim women who live in Britain make a pilgrimage to Zainab Cobbold s grave in Inverness Salma is a take charge woman, a doctor in her native Egypt but a massage therapist here in Britain Her ex from Egypt has contacted her from social media and she s in the throes of excitement in rekindling memories of their romance She s in her 40s Iman is a beautiful woman whose beauty was supposed to shield her from the hardships of life It hasn t She s on her third husband, men always want to possess her and she s herded into a submissive and passive role, always She s in her 20s And Moni is the woman in her 30s, caring for her five year old son who has cerebral palsy Her husband is demanding she and Adam her son join him in Saudi Arabia, and she s defying him because she wants her son to have the health care Britain provides, she hates the way Saudis treat the disabled.Each woman has her own problems, concerns, and life experiences Each is interesting and unique Salma dealing with enjoying the freedom that comes from marrying a Scottish convert, but bemoaning the fact that this means she cannot dominate and control her children the way she wants to She s ashamed on some level that she s unable to be a doctor here.Iman, for all her beauty and being labeled as lazy and emptyheaded is suffering from PTSD due to her growing up in Syria and having her first husband she married him at age 15 killed in the war She has an affinity for animals and a vivid imagination.Moni is out of shape, her life completely devoted to carrying for her child, and the devotion to her disabled son is driving a wedge between her and her husband.The book starts off pretty normal, but once the women reach Inverness the magical realism starts and things get progressively weirder and weirder The book is called Bird Summons because Iman is in communication with Hoopoe, a bird that appears in the Quran He tells her stories I was mildly annoyed by the fairy tales in this book I know Aboulela was trying to illustrate some points, but I m not a fan of this type of plot device I found the women s plot muchinteresting, and could have done without all the fairy tales Hoopoe tells Iman.The women each have to learn their lesson and come out of the book on the other side of whatever main issue they are struggling with If you don t like magical realism, allegories, or fairy tales, skip this book.Aboulela has a kind of deceptively simple writing style that draws you in It suits the subject material, but for those of you who celebrate amazing writing such as that of Donna Tartt or Andr Aciman are going to be disappointed, this isn t that kind of book.I couldn t really understand why a strong woman like Salma was so eager to reconnect with someone like Amir I know Aboulela is saying it s because if she stayed in her home country and married him instead of David, she could have been a doctor, but it was mind boggling to me that she d fantasize about being married to weakling Amir.Amir can t handle women being better than him at anything, so when they were dating, Salma was constantly stifling herself in order to keep Amir s ego inflated She lost tennis matches, pretended he could outrun her, deliberately lost at cards She does the work and he makes the decisions That was their pattern, what came naturally to them both she did the legwork and the research so that they could brainstorm and fumble towards a decision in which he would have the final word. pg 132She did his work for him when they were in clinical.It s INSANE to me that she s fantasizing about this guy He sounds like an incredibly weak person, unable to tolerate the idea that a woman could be better than him at anything, very defensive, very spoiled, and full of himself I guess Aboulela s point is that instead of fantasizing about this guy, Salma should be appreciative of her husband, who values her opinions, values her knowledge, and doesn t try to control or dominate her But it was almost too bizarre to me I couldn t understand the appeal of Amir or Salma s obsession with her digital affair with him.The men who marry Iman three so far are also despicable and childlike Aboulela seems to think it would be difficult to be anything else when their culture encourages this type of behavior A wife is a servant, a live in slave, basically, a possession And if your wife pisses you off, you can always get another, which is what Moni is threatened with when she places the needs of her disabled son over the desires of her husband.Only Salma escaped, by marrying a British man who converted to Islam He is literally the only man in this book who respects women or sees women as human beings Every single other man in here is someone who views women as servants, possessions or objects.Iman depending on the mercy of a man only interested in her beauty her lot in life brings up an interesting thesis from Aboulela about the difference between marriage and prostitution Ibrahim had been opposed to this trip Three women on their own gallivanting across Scotland it was wrong and unnecessary Iman had pleaded, pouted and sulked until he gave way I can t bear you out of my sight, he said the night before she left What am I going to do he wailed in his boxer shorts, punching pillows and slamming doors.Iman s husband was a young student from a conservative family His scholarship, paid for by his home country s government, was ample and reliable Ibrahim had suffered from homesickness and culture shock when he first arrived and the imam of the mosque prescribed marriage Ibrahim s family back home disagreed and so, without their consent nor knowledge, he took as his wife the most beautiful divorcee in the local Muslim community He left the student halls, which with girls in close proximity to beds they should not, would not and did not share with him were a source of torment, and moved with Iman into a small flat near the university She was his saviour The one who met all his needs so that he could settle and study And he was her saviour too Dumped by the husband who had brought her to Britain not exactly dumped, but he had ended up in prison and divorced her as a courtesy , she had been unsure what to do next, how to proceed Do anything, but don t come back, her family told her Because of the war, home was neither safe nor prosperous Those who were lucky to be out stayed out.Her ex husband s lengthy sentence was for grievous bodily harm after losing his temper with a fellow Syrian Asked if he had beaten her now that his violent credentials were proven without doubt, Iman shook her head and answered no, but the truth was he hadn t got around to it yet So, she opted next for the peaceful, gentle Ibrahim Of the string of suitors, he was the one least likely to lift a finger against her Besides, when he said the magic words, I will do everything I can to unite you with your mother, she was won over His immaturity was endearing, his consistent lust for her reassuring He rescued her from homelessness and from aimlessness Closer to her in age than her previous husbands, she found herself loving him as a friend, someone she could cuddle on the sofa and play games with on the PlayStation.Every morsel she put in her mouth, every piece of clothing, was provided for her by Ibrahim The rent, the gas, the internet She did not have to beg, borrow or steal She did not need to get up at the crack of dawn, take orders from a line manager or clean up other people s homes Instead, she was as pampered as a racehorse and as busy as a geisha.To what extent is marriage religiously sanctioned prostitution Iman sometimes pondered this question She had even discussed it with Salma onthan one occasion as much as she was capable of discussion Salma of course had been adamant that the two were completely different Iman wasn t sure, and the arguments Salma used didn t fully convince her Prostitution and marriage Man pays and woman serves He houses, clothes and feeds her to get something in return So what was the difference between the twopg 35Later, Iman acknowledges that it s not religion, but only love that can change the relationship between man and woman And what lies ahead for her, how will she live Everyone had predicted she would marry a rich man and never have to lift a finger Her beauty had pointed towards this Marriage versus prostitution Marriage as a way to legitimise the oldest profession It need not be like this She knew this, glimpsed it in the lives of other couples Two things could look alike and feel alike and seem alike yet be profoundly different One was blessed and the other doomed The intentions that led to each were different The resemblance was superficial but understandable Man pays and woman serves He houses, clothes and feeds her to get something in return Put love in the equation He gives because he loves her and would give regardless of whether services were rendered or not she gives because she loves him and would keep giving even if he didn t pay Or they both give and receive in a flow generated by love with neither one keeping tabs, with neither one viewing the relationship as a transaction. pg 72But can she ever find love in this sort of system, where women are put on a marriage market and men marry them only because they are beautiful TL DR An interesting look at the life of three Muslim women, at least one of whom is black Moni Because they are living in Britain and not Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Egypt, this book isn t as depressing as most books I ve read about Muslim women s lives e.g The Patience Stone, A Thousand Splendid Suns A woman focused book, in which men good or bad are only on the periphery Focuses on women s feelings, thoughts, ideas, and life experiences.Aboulela makes some great points and has some interesting things to say I enjoyed the book The magical realism sort of threw me for a loop, but overall a good book If you want to read a Muslim focused book by a Muslim female author OwnVoices or whatever this is a good one If you have an interest in that sort of thing, I d recommend it.NAMES IN THIS BOOK view spoiler Salma f 40s Moni f Manahil Iman f 20sAdam mDavid mAmir mIbrahim mMurtada mKathy fAnne fNorma fMullin mNathan mEmad mToby mGrant mZainab f hide spoiler


  2. Inderjit Sanghera Inderjit Sanghera says:

    The story follows three women Salma, Moni and Iman as they undertake a pilgrimage to the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first known Western woman to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca The characters often veer towards caricature, the paper thin veils with which Aboulela dresses their personalty punctuated intermittently by demonstrations of depth, whether it is Iman s tepid act of rebellion or Salma s harmless flirtation Whilst Bird Summons should be praised for depicting three Muslim women The story follows three women Salma, Moni and Iman as they undertake a pilgrimage to the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first known Western woman to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca The characters often veer towards caricature, the paper thin veils with which Aboulela dresses their personalty punctuated intermittently by demonstrations of depth, whether it is Iman s tepid act of rebellion or Salma s harmless flirtation Whilst Bird Summons should be praised for depicting three Muslim women in sometimes nuanced ways, the characters still feel like the sum of their parts rather than being well developed characters and so Iman is seen solely through the lens of her beauty and Moni through her tribulations as the mother of a disabled son who has been rejected by his father Whilst there shouldn t be a problem with this, we know that Aboulela is capable of better such as her tender, nuanced depictions in Elsewhere, Home as opposed to the broad brushstrokes of Bird Summons.Nevertheless, Bird Summons is an enjoyable read The passages which most stand out are the various interactions between the protagonists, whether it be their bickering or their bonding and the end of the novel as Salma reaches her apotheosis as she reaches the tomb of Lady Evelyn and realises that this voyage of self discovery is something that she had to do alone and which has made her appreciate all that she may have been beginning to find mundane, from her husband to her children to her flawed friends Bird Summons is perhaps a demonstration that Aboulela is only a brilliant writer in bursts and in the miniatures she displays in her short stories and on occasion in Bird Summons


  3. Claire Claire says:

    The first book I have read by Leila Aboulela, an author I ve wanted to read for some time, being someone who grew up in one culture and has experienced life in another culture, of the variety that interests me, the opposite of the colonial visitor There was a time when literary insights into other cultures came predominantly from male explorers of anglo saxon cultures, now we are increasingly able to read stories of how it is to be a woman coming from an African or Eastern culture or country, l The first book I have read by Leila Aboulela, an author I ve wanted to read for some time, being someone who grew up in one culture and has experienced life in another culture, of the variety that interests me, the opposite of the colonial visitor There was a time when literary insights into other cultures came predominantly from male explorers of anglo saxon cultures, now we are increasingly able to read stories of how it is to be a woman coming from an African or Eastern culture or country, living in the West, a blend of the richness in perspective of what they bring and the fresh sightedness of their encounter with the place and people they have arrived to.Bird Summons was all the better, for telling a tale of three women They share in common that they belong to the Arabic Speaking Muslim Women s Group, although they ve each grown up in different countries So within their group and from that element they have in common, they challenge and learn from each other As the reader we get to witness how their attitudes shift and change as they transform, within this environment which is strange to them, yet they are making it their home and it contributes to the way they are and will be One can not live elsewhere and stay fixed in the past and even when one adapts to a new present, it is necessary to continue changing and moving forward, no matter what challenges us from the outside.Salma has organised a trip for the members of the group to visit the remote site of a grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first British woman to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, to educate themselves about the history of Islam in Britain, however rumours of its defacement cause some to have doubts, whittling their numbers to just three Sometimes adversity offers a gift and rather than an overnight visit, they decide to stay a week at the loch, a resort on the grounds of a converted monastery, from where they can leisurely make their way to the grave.Each of the three women has a pressing issue that over the week consumes them and the others learn about.And then there is the Hoopoe The wonderful bird that ll take some readers on a side journey to findabout.It is a wonderful book of three international women, their journey, which they believe to be a pilgrimage to an important site, which becomes an inner voyage of transformation.Highly Recommended


  4. Moony MeowPoff Moony MeowPoff says:

    I could nt connect with any of the characters I found them annoying and just meh I tried really hard to find any sympathy and anything to like the book.


  5. Nuri Nuri says:

    I was struggling with this book, couldn t sympathise with the three main figures, found them quite annoying and couldn t relate to their stories I admit that reading a book is not always about finding the main figures nice and relatable, rather also about learning from someone else s experiences that might not be yours, but a reading experience is usually so much nicer when you can relate Also, style helps, and the style, switching from a realistic description to some sort of supernatural fant I was struggling with this book, couldn t sympathise with the three main figures, found them quite annoying and couldn t relate to their stories I admit that reading a book is not always about finding the main figures nice and relatable, rather also about learning from someone else s experiences that might not be yours, but a reading experience is usually so much nicer when you can relate Also, style helps, and the style, switching from a realistic description to some sort of supernatural fantasy, with lengthy wise stories told by a bird, wasn t mine either In the book, Salma, Iman and Moni, three Arab women living in Scotland, are heading off for a week at a loch to visit Lady Evelyn Cobbold s grave view spoiler Salma is a studied Egyptian doctor, married to a Scottish person, wasn t able to pass her tests to have her diploma recognised in Scotland, so then became a massage therapist, and feels inferior and like a failure due to not being a doctor any At the same time she s quite bossy and not very considerate of other people s feelings hence why I didn t enjoy reading her interaction with the other two , and to top it all accepts a friendship request and starts a virtual affair with her university sweetheart whom she had left to get married to her Scottish husband Really So immature Everyone knows you re not supposed to start a new relationship before sorting out your old ones Turns out she s falling for this mainly because he makes her feel like she is a doctor, he reminds her of the status she had back home in Egypt Iman is a Syrian refugee in Scotland, her main feature is being beautiful and loved by men, and a bit lazy, trying to just secure a good marriage so that her life can be comfortable, and unsuccessfully trying to fall pregnant She was married off at the age of 15, widowed in Syria, married again to a criminal who brought her to Scotland but had to go to jail and divorced her to set her free , then secretly unofficially married to another Arab student in Scotland who really just married her for sex so he could stay free from sin On the day they are travelling her husband s family finds out about her and forces him to divorce her, which lets her shattered in pieces, questioning marriage as a whole Isn t it just a religiously sanctioned form of prostitution , reflecting on how she only self defined through her femininity being attractive to men, trying to bare a child , then taking off her scarf Moni, of Sudanese origin, used to be successful in banking, then got married and had a disabled child that is absorbing all of her energy to the point that she has completely cut off from her husband and only lives for her son, Adam Her husband, who doesn t really love cherish the disabled boy is currently in Saudi and everyone around her wants her disabled child to join the father, but she refuses as she believes the living conditions for her disabled son are best in the UK.During the trip, all three women let out their ugly sides egos, and start blaming each other for 1 having an affair, 2 taking off the scarf, 3 refusing any intimacy with the husband, each one not really able to see their own shortcomings All three of them are then going through some form of mystic magical development where realism doesn t play a big role any Salma believes her university sweetheart has come to the loch to join her in the form of a runner that she is following Iman is trying on different costumes, cuts her hair, and talks to a bird that tells her mystical stories and Moni is spending her time with a little boy who plays with her and happens to have the same name than her son Salma then loses all her muscles force and becomes all flat Iman loses her femininity and becomes an animal and Moni diminishes in size with every bit of food that she is feeding the little boy who in turn becomes a giant and takes away all her space The flat mat Salma , the animal Iman and the little ball Moni get lost in the forest and the bird comes to help them find their way back Obviously, in the end, the symbolism of it all becomes clear and all three of them can to some extent free themselves from their issues and egos hide spoiler The book tackled lots of different issues from different women s lives that many readers could relate to the feeling of being a failure when your overseas diplomas aren t recognised, marriage and faithfulness after a longer period of being married and taking certain things for granted, the difficulties of being an uneducated female refugee always relying on men to provide for you, the issue of giving up one s own personality and life and relationship to a husband for a child disabled or not , the acceptance or rejection of disabled children in the Arab society, the shallow obsession with titles in the Arab societies Lots of important issues, just maybe not for me at the moment


  6. Umaymah Umaymah says:

    It has to be a 5 star read The folklore mixed with religious and moral lessons I loved that there was no preaching morality or religion but gentle nudges to be the best human one can be, to let life be honest and accept it s changes To live and grow is as sure as our eventual death That thethings change thethey remain the same As always Aboulela grips me with her writing and makes me close my eyes and think deeper The dystopian end was a bit hard for me to fully grasp and I thi It has to be a 5 star read The folklore mixed with religious and moral lessons I loved that there was no preaching morality or religion but gentle nudges to be the best human one can be, to let life be honest and accept it s changes To live and grow is as sure as our eventual death That thethings change thethey remain the same As always Aboulela grips me with her writing and makes me close my eyes and think deeper The dystopian end was a bit hard for me to fully grasp and I think I may need to go back to read it in ameasured pace As always the nuances of Islam and subtle hints that only people of that faith and culture would understand tend to make it hard for non Muslims to totally understand, I don t know if it s deliberate or not


  7. Jessica Jessica says:

    I loved Aboulela sThe Translator, a stunning novel I also liked her early novel, Minaret. Bird Summons was disappointing to me I liked it well enough for the first half, a realisticmainstream treatment than her others I appreciate that the novel centers on friendship, in particular among women, as I don t think that important relationship is explored enough in literary fiction.The novel moves from realism to thefantastical, first with some elements, and then ultimately, to a full I loved Aboulela sThe Translator, a stunning novel I also liked her early novel, Minaret. Bird Summons was disappointing to me I liked it well enough for the first half, a realisticmainstream treatment than her others I appreciate that the novel centers on friendship, in particular among women, as I don t think that important relationship is explored enough in literary fiction.The novel moves from realism to thefantastical, first with some elements, and then ultimately, to a full blown fantastical magical realm I wasn t drawn in by this and couldn t reconcile the rift So the novel s charms and lessons ultimately it seemed pedantic were lost on me


  8. Cecilia Margherita Cecilia Margherita says:

    Leila Abouleila s novel was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review The book will be printed in November, but is already published in the UK and Canada.Salma, moni and Iman are three Muslim women, coming from three different Middle Eastern countries Egypt, Sudan, Syria , with a very varied education and background Some have moved to England for reasons of marriage, others for study and now they are at a turning point in their lives Salma lives a consolidated m Leila Abouleila s novel was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review The book will be printed in November, but is already published in the UK and Canada.Salma, moni and Iman are three Muslim women, coming from three different Middle Eastern countries Egypt, Sudan, Syria , with a very varied education and background Some have moved to England for reasons of marriage, others for study and now they are at a turning point in their lives Salma lives a consolidated marriage and has a devoted husband, but her life as a loving wife and mother no longer satisfies her because of her nostalgia for the past Moni takes care of her son with cerebral palsy, but she cannot count on the support of her husband, who would like to deny the existence of their son and move on with his life Finally, Iman is the youngest and the most attractive of the three She has three marriages behind her and, although she has never been independent, she wants motherhood and domestic happiness The three women are united by a journey Salma, Moni and Iman venture on a journey to Scotland The trip will provide them with an opportunity to reflect on the anxieties, anxieties and doubts of the phase they are going through in their lives Their company will allow them to better understand themselves The narrative is on the whole very enjoyable The rhythm is smooth, but gradually it becomes less and less pressing Although the psychology of the personages is approached in a subtle way, I find that in the end the writer takes us in a rather predictable direction It s not an ugly book overall, on the contrary The Muslim religion is described in a multifaceted way and without generalizations, as well as the life of those who are forced to leave their country of birth and even after years finds themselves regretting the place where they were born and raised The female characters are outlined with delicacy and depth and the image that is given back to us of them is absolutely detailed Although these are not stereotyped women, the author insists too much on describing some of their personality traits and the reading ends up being redundant I think that although their introspection is subtle, the parts dedicated to their thoughts are really too repetitive They slowed down the reading and the rhythm was affected In the complex it remains a good novel and I am convinced that the author has written and will undoubtedly write other works of value, so I will certainly give her another opportunity However, it is not an unforgettable reading or one that leaves its mark


  9. Patti Patti says:

    I had no contact with Miss Aboulela and her style of writing, which means I did not have any special expectations for the book This review is also rather long, because I had quite a lot of thoughts on it.That said, I was definitely surprised how much I liked this book Although it deals with a religious premise, which I can respect yet not follow, it is only a forefront for the emotional journey the characters have to undertake There might be spoilers ahead, so read this review with that in mi I had no contact with Miss Aboulela and her style of writing, which means I did not have any special expectations for the book This review is also rather long, because I had quite a lot of thoughts on it.That said, I was definitely surprised how much I liked this book Although it deals with a religious premise, which I can respect yet not follow, it is only a forefront for the emotional journey the characters have to undertake There might be spoilers ahead, so read this review with that in mind.The first third of the book is a bit slow to read It sets the tone appropriately, yet I often found myself drifting away a bit by the long introductions of the characters I think, after ending it, it was necessary for the book itself, because you need to invest some amount of time into them to respect the place where they finally end their story The 3 main characters had good motivations, were interesting to listen to and also had obvious flaws which might be evenimportant And the author too did a great job to never judge their flaws when she wrote from their characters perspective just as we ourselves would never judge our own flaws first The second part of the book, or at least how I read it, is a bit difficult to grasp I think mainly it presents the possible distractions, problems and missteps of the characters to show the reader what can go wrong when you do not tackle your problems correctly Whether it is Salma spending too much time on her former lover or Moni who refuses to care for herself and not only for others The hopoe also appears a spiritual advisor with great history, but he is only used very delicately and never gives clear directions for Iman to go to.The third section of the book is, as expected, the clashing of all the wrongdoings and the path to resolve them And it pains me to say, but I was not quite happy with the ending The author decided to colour the ending in a magical realism kinda way, visualising it in a dream like scene with the three women It was beautifully written the nature drawn metaphors, the nightmares each woman had for herself, manifesting their worst fears, and the resolution with the Hopoe serving as a guide on the most important step of the journeyIn every journey, there comes a point, around three quarters of the way through, when the traveler, without a guide, can go no furtherThat quote really stuck with me too The realisation of ones need for help in dark times is probably one of the most powerful feelings, and all women in the story felt it s impact.And its weird to say because as much as I loved the ending, it also strikes me that maybe they deserved areal ending Somethingphysical, a real discussion between them, where they found themselves or at least acknowledged their faults This dream lasted for a whole day, not further explained or questioned And I think here is where I failed as a reader to completely understand the spiritual journey as something that might have happened in real life between them Maybe the dream they experienced together is, in reality, a very deep and emotional conversation between the protagonists Or it was just a dream they all had together, and it will be forever a mystery what really happened between them But,importantly, I loved that they were able to find better versions of themselves in the end in a believable fashion, not a complete turnaround for each and every character, but everyone challenged their old way of thinking and found new ones to live after.I was going to give this book 4 stars It sounds childish, but I will change it to 5 because as much as I first questioned the ending, the amount of time spent on thinking about it makes me wonder if that is what the author wanted to achieve I think I am going to pick upbooks from her, hoping she will again surprise me


  10. Leah Leah says:

    I received a digital ARC from Netgalley for a fair and honest review.Wow This book was not what I expected When I read the synopsis I was expecting a road trip story about three friends who had all emigrated to Scotland I was prepared for culture shock, misunderstandings, and some laughs But what Ms Aboulela provided was so muchThis story was a pilgrimage A pilgrimage of the mind, and of the soul Three friends, Salma, Moni, and Iman end up being the last three standing of their trav I received a digital ARC from Netgalley for a fair and honest review.Wow This book was not what I expected When I read the synopsis I was expecting a road trip story about three friends who had all emigrated to Scotland I was prepared for culture shock, misunderstandings, and some laughs But what Ms Aboulela provided was so muchThis story was a pilgrimage A pilgrimage of the mind, and of the soul Three friends, Salma, Moni, and Iman end up being the last three standing of their travel group who end up making the trip into the Scottish Highlands to see the grave of Lady Evelyn Murray, the first white Muslim woman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca Along the way they learn about themselves, each other, and their friendship These three friends all emigrated to Britain one from Egypt, one from Syria, and one from Sudan Each running away from different demons, each running towards their own salvations As with most friendships, each person has their role, the mother figure, the martyr, one that everyone thinks cant take care of themselves, the pretty one, the practical one, etc Along the way, we learn what roles these women play in each other s lives and as the cracks begin to develop and as they begin to question their own existence, their own reality, their own choices, the strain on the friendship begins to grow Once they arrive at their cabin, strange things begin to happen to each woman A bird, a hoopoe, visits one and tells her stories that often have double or hidden meanings, much like fables or scriptures She begins to question her choices and wonders if everything is as it seems The women start to see how their lives could be or could have been, if they had gone down different paths, made different choices Finally, the day to trek to the grave comes and the women must hike to it A pilgrimage to the grave of a woman who showed no fear and didn t care what the world around her thought A woman who was true to herself During their pilgrimage to the grave, the hoopoe appears to women this time as a group and they are shown what they need to see I know that sounds funny, but I don t want to give anything away This is a beautiful story I had never heard of Lady Evelyn before but now, having read a bit about her, knowing how strong her character was and what an inspiration she was to these three women Lady Evelyn didn t fit in with those around her, and neither did these three women, and yet they loved their families and their lives The pilgrimage they made may not have been the Hajj, but the clarity and understanding that they gained from it was still monumental Thank you to Netgalley, the publishers and the author for allowing me to read such a beautiful story


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10 thoughts on “Bird Summons

  1. Carmen Carmen says:

    This was meant to be the ultimate threat, the winning card If you don t carry the bundle of your crippled son, drape yourself in a black abaya and hop on a plane to Saudi, your husband will take another wife You will be replaced your spot will be taken. pg 155This is a strange book As usual, I went into this novel completely blind I had no idea what it was about I had no information about the book Imagine my surprise when it turned out I was reading magical realism.The book starts off no This was meant to be the ultimate threat, the winning card If you don t carry the bundle of your crippled son, drape yourself in a black abaya and hop on a plane to Saudi, your husband will take another wife You will be replaced your spot will be taken. pg 155This is a strange book As usual, I went into this novel completely blind I had no idea what it was about I had no information about the book Imagine my surprise when it turned out I was reading magical realism.The book starts off normal enough I suggest reading the GR summary, it s excellent Three Muslim women who live in Britain make a pilgrimage to Zainab Cobbold s grave in Inverness Salma is a take charge woman, a doctor in her native Egypt but a massage therapist here in Britain Her ex from Egypt has contacted her from social media and she s in the throes of excitement in rekindling memories of their romance She s in her 40s Iman is a beautiful woman whose beauty was supposed to shield her from the hardships of life It hasn t She s on her third husband, men always want to possess her and she s herded into a submissive and passive role, always She s in her 20s And Moni is the woman in her 30s, caring for her five year old son who has cerebral palsy Her husband is demanding she and Adam her son join him in Saudi Arabia, and she s defying him because she wants her son to have the health care Britain provides, she hates the way Saudis treat the disabled.Each woman has her own problems, concerns, and life experiences Each is interesting and unique Salma dealing with enjoying the freedom that comes from marrying a Scottish convert, but bemoaning the fact that this means she cannot dominate and control her children the way she wants to She s ashamed on some level that she s unable to be a doctor here.Iman, for all her beauty and being labeled as lazy and emptyheaded is suffering from PTSD due to her growing up in Syria and having her first husband she married him at age 15 killed in the war She has an affinity for animals and a vivid imagination.Moni is out of shape, her life completely devoted to carrying for her child, and the devotion to her disabled son is driving a wedge between her and her husband.The book starts off pretty normal, but once the women reach Inverness the magical realism starts and things get progressively weirder and weirder The book is called Bird Summons because Iman is in communication with Hoopoe, a bird that appears in the Quran He tells her stories I was mildly annoyed by the fairy tales in this book I know Aboulela was trying to illustrate some points, but I m not a fan of this type of plot device I found the women s plot muchinteresting, and could have done without all the fairy tales Hoopoe tells Iman.The women each have to learn their lesson and come out of the book on the other side of whatever main issue they are struggling with If you don t like magical realism, allegories, or fairy tales, skip this book.Aboulela has a kind of deceptively simple writing style that draws you in It suits the subject material, but for those of you who celebrate amazing writing such as that of Donna Tartt or Andr Aciman are going to be disappointed, this isn t that kind of book.I couldn t really understand why a strong woman like Salma was so eager to reconnect with someone like Amir I know Aboulela is saying it s because if she stayed in her home country and married him instead of David, she could have been a doctor, but it was mind boggling to me that she d fantasize about being married to weakling Amir.Amir can t handle women being better than him at anything, so when they were dating, Salma was constantly stifling herself in order to keep Amir s ego inflated She lost tennis matches, pretended he could outrun her, deliberately lost at cards She does the work and he makes the decisions That was their pattern, what came naturally to them both she did the legwork and the research so that they could brainstorm and fumble towards a decision in which he would have the final word. pg 132She did his work for him when they were in clinical.It s INSANE to me that she s fantasizing about this guy He sounds like an incredibly weak person, unable to tolerate the idea that a woman could be better than him at anything, very defensive, very spoiled, and full of himself I guess Aboulela s point is that instead of fantasizing about this guy, Salma should be appreciative of her husband, who values her opinions, values her knowledge, and doesn t try to control or dominate her But it was almost too bizarre to me I couldn t understand the appeal of Amir or Salma s obsession with her digital affair with him.The men who marry Iman three so far are also despicable and childlike Aboulela seems to think it would be difficult to be anything else when their culture encourages this type of behavior A wife is a servant, a live in slave, basically, a possession And if your wife pisses you off, you can always get another, which is what Moni is threatened with when she places the needs of her disabled son over the desires of her husband.Only Salma escaped, by marrying a British man who converted to Islam He is literally the only man in this book who respects women or sees women as human beings Every single other man in here is someone who views women as servants, possessions or objects.Iman depending on the mercy of a man only interested in her beauty her lot in life brings up an interesting thesis from Aboulela about the difference between marriage and prostitution Ibrahim had been opposed to this trip Three women on their own gallivanting across Scotland it was wrong and unnecessary Iman had pleaded, pouted and sulked until he gave way I can t bear you out of my sight, he said the night before she left What am I going to do he wailed in his boxer shorts, punching pillows and slamming doors.Iman s husband was a young student from a conservative family His scholarship, paid for by his home country s government, was ample and reliable Ibrahim had suffered from homesickness and culture shock when he first arrived and the imam of the mosque prescribed marriage Ibrahim s family back home disagreed and so, without their consent nor knowledge, he took as his wife the most beautiful divorcee in the local Muslim community He left the student halls, which with girls in close proximity to beds they should not, would not and did not share with him were a source of torment, and moved with Iman into a small flat near the university She was his saviour The one who met all his needs so that he could settle and study And he was her saviour too Dumped by the husband who had brought her to Britain not exactly dumped, but he had ended up in prison and divorced her as a courtesy , she had been unsure what to do next, how to proceed Do anything, but don t come back, her family told her Because of the war, home was neither safe nor prosperous Those who were lucky to be out stayed out.Her ex husband s lengthy sentence was for grievous bodily harm after losing his temper with a fellow Syrian Asked if he had beaten her now that his violent credentials were proven without doubt, Iman shook her head and answered no, but the truth was he hadn t got around to it yet So, she opted next for the peaceful, gentle Ibrahim Of the string of suitors, he was the one least likely to lift a finger against her Besides, when he said the magic words, I will do everything I can to unite you with your mother, she was won over His immaturity was endearing, his consistent lust for her reassuring He rescued her from homelessness and from aimlessness Closer to her in age than her previous husbands, she found herself loving him as a friend, someone she could cuddle on the sofa and play games with on the PlayStation.Every morsel she put in her mouth, every piece of clothing, was provided for her by Ibrahim The rent, the gas, the internet She did not have to beg, borrow or steal She did not need to get up at the crack of dawn, take orders from a line manager or clean up other people s homes Instead, she was as pampered as a racehorse and as busy as a geisha.To what extent is marriage religiously sanctioned prostitution Iman sometimes pondered this question She had even discussed it with Salma onthan one occasion as much as she was capable of discussion Salma of course had been adamant that the two were completely different Iman wasn t sure, and the arguments Salma used didn t fully convince her Prostitution and marriage Man pays and woman serves He houses, clothes and feeds her to get something in return So what was the difference between the twopg 35Later, Iman acknowledges that it s not religion, but only love that can change the relationship between man and woman And what lies ahead for her, how will she live Everyone had predicted she would marry a rich man and never have to lift a finger Her beauty had pointed towards this Marriage versus prostitution Marriage as a way to legitimise the oldest profession It need not be like this She knew this, glimpsed it in the lives of other couples Two things could look alike and feel alike and seem alike yet be profoundly different One was blessed and the other doomed The intentions that led to each were different The resemblance was superficial but understandable Man pays and woman serves He houses, clothes and feeds her to get something in return Put love in the equation He gives because he loves her and would give regardless of whether services were rendered or not she gives because she loves him and would keep giving even if he didn t pay Or they both give and receive in a flow generated by love with neither one keeping tabs, with neither one viewing the relationship as a transaction. pg 72But can she ever find love in this sort of system, where women are put on a marriage market and men marry them only because they are beautiful TL DR An interesting look at the life of three Muslim women, at least one of whom is black Moni Because they are living in Britain and not Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Egypt, this book isn t as depressing as most books I ve read about Muslim women s lives e.g The Patience Stone, A Thousand Splendid Suns A woman focused book, in which men good or bad are only on the periphery Focuses on women s feelings, thoughts, ideas, and life experiences.Aboulela makes some great points and has some interesting things to say I enjoyed the book The magical realism sort of threw me for a loop, but overall a good book If you want to read a Muslim focused book by a Muslim female author OwnVoices or whatever this is a good one If you have an interest in that sort of thing, I d recommend it.NAMES IN THIS BOOK view spoiler Salma f 40s Moni f Manahil Iman f 20sAdam mDavid mAmir mIbrahim mMurtada mKathy fAnne fNorma fMullin mNathan mEmad mToby mGrant mZainab f hide spoiler


  2. Inderjit Sanghera Inderjit Sanghera says:

    The story follows three women Salma, Moni and Iman as they undertake a pilgrimage to the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first known Western woman to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca The characters often veer towards caricature, the paper thin veils with which Aboulela dresses their personalty punctuated intermittently by demonstrations of depth, whether it is Iman s tepid act of rebellion or Salma s harmless flirtation Whilst Bird Summons should be praised for depicting three Muslim women The story follows three women Salma, Moni and Iman as they undertake a pilgrimage to the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first known Western woman to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca The characters often veer towards caricature, the paper thin veils with which Aboulela dresses their personalty punctuated intermittently by demonstrations of depth, whether it is Iman s tepid act of rebellion or Salma s harmless flirtation Whilst Bird Summons should be praised for depicting three Muslim women in sometimes nuanced ways, the characters still feel like the sum of their parts rather than being well developed characters and so Iman is seen solely through the lens of her beauty and Moni through her tribulations as the mother of a disabled son who has been rejected by his father Whilst there shouldn t be a problem with this, we know that Aboulela is capable of better such as her tender, nuanced depictions in Elsewhere, Home as opposed to the broad brushstrokes of Bird Summons.Nevertheless, Bird Summons is an enjoyable read The passages which most stand out are the various interactions between the protagonists, whether it be their bickering or their bonding and the end of the novel as Salma reaches her apotheosis as she reaches the tomb of Lady Evelyn and realises that this voyage of self discovery is something that she had to do alone and which has made her appreciate all that she may have been beginning to find mundane, from her husband to her children to her flawed friends Bird Summons is perhaps a demonstration that Aboulela is only a brilliant writer in bursts and in the miniatures she displays in her short stories and on occasion in Bird Summons


  3. Claire Claire says:

    The first book I have read by Leila Aboulela, an author I ve wanted to read for some time, being someone who grew up in one culture and has experienced life in another culture, of the variety that interests me, the opposite of the colonial visitor There was a time when literary insights into other cultures came predominantly from male explorers of anglo saxon cultures, now we are increasingly able to read stories of how it is to be a woman coming from an African or Eastern culture or country, l The first book I have read by Leila Aboulela, an author I ve wanted to read for some time, being someone who grew up in one culture and has experienced life in another culture, of the variety that interests me, the opposite of the colonial visitor There was a time when literary insights into other cultures came predominantly from male explorers of anglo saxon cultures, now we are increasingly able to read stories of how it is to be a woman coming from an African or Eastern culture or country, living in the West, a blend of the richness in perspective of what they bring and the fresh sightedness of their encounter with the place and people they have arrived to.Bird Summons was all the better, for telling a tale of three women They share in common that they belong to the Arabic Speaking Muslim Women s Group, although they ve each grown up in different countries So within their group and from that element they have in common, they challenge and learn from each other As the reader we get to witness how their attitudes shift and change as they transform, within this environment which is strange to them, yet they are making it their home and it contributes to the way they are and will be One can not live elsewhere and stay fixed in the past and even when one adapts to a new present, it is necessary to continue changing and moving forward, no matter what challenges us from the outside.Salma has organised a trip for the members of the group to visit the remote site of a grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first British woman to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, to educate themselves about the history of Islam in Britain, however rumours of its defacement cause some to have doubts, whittling their numbers to just three Sometimes adversity offers a gift and rather than an overnight visit, they decide to stay a week at the loch, a resort on the grounds of a converted monastery, from where they can leisurely make their way to the grave.Each of the three women has a pressing issue that over the week consumes them and the others learn about.And then there is the Hoopoe The wonderful bird that ll take some readers on a side journey to findabout.It is a wonderful book of three international women, their journey, which they believe to be a pilgrimage to an important site, which becomes an inner voyage of transformation.Highly Recommended


  4. Moony MeowPoff Moony MeowPoff says:

    I could nt connect with any of the characters I found them annoying and just meh I tried really hard to find any sympathy and anything to like the book.


  5. Nuri Nuri says:

    I was struggling with this book, couldn t sympathise with the three main figures, found them quite annoying and couldn t relate to their stories I admit that reading a book is not always about finding the main figures nice and relatable, rather also about learning from someone else s experiences that might not be yours, but a reading experience is usually so much nicer when you can relate Also, style helps, and the style, switching from a realistic description to some sort of supernatural fant I was struggling with this book, couldn t sympathise with the three main figures, found them quite annoying and couldn t relate to their stories I admit that reading a book is not always about finding the main figures nice and relatable, rather also about learning from someone else s experiences that might not be yours, but a reading experience is usually so much nicer when you can relate Also, style helps, and the style, switching from a realistic description to some sort of supernatural fantasy, with lengthy wise stories told by a bird, wasn t mine either In the book, Salma, Iman and Moni, three Arab women living in Scotland, are heading off for a week at a loch to visit Lady Evelyn Cobbold s grave view spoiler Salma is a studied Egyptian doctor, married to a Scottish person, wasn t able to pass her tests to have her diploma recognised in Scotland, so then became a massage therapist, and feels inferior and like a failure due to not being a doctor any At the same time she s quite bossy and not very considerate of other people s feelings hence why I didn t enjoy reading her interaction with the other two , and to top it all accepts a friendship request and starts a virtual affair with her university sweetheart whom she had left to get married to her Scottish husband Really So immature Everyone knows you re not supposed to start a new relationship before sorting out your old ones Turns out she s falling for this mainly because he makes her feel like she is a doctor, he reminds her of the status she had back home in Egypt Iman is a Syrian refugee in Scotland, her main feature is being beautiful and loved by men, and a bit lazy, trying to just secure a good marriage so that her life can be comfortable, and unsuccessfully trying to fall pregnant She was married off at the age of 15, widowed in Syria, married again to a criminal who brought her to Scotland but had to go to jail and divorced her to set her free , then secretly unofficially married to another Arab student in Scotland who really just married her for sex so he could stay free from sin On the day they are travelling her husband s family finds out about her and forces him to divorce her, which lets her shattered in pieces, questioning marriage as a whole Isn t it just a religiously sanctioned form of prostitution , reflecting on how she only self defined through her femininity being attractive to men, trying to bare a child , then taking off her scarf Moni, of Sudanese origin, used to be successful in banking, then got married and had a disabled child that is absorbing all of her energy to the point that she has completely cut off from her husband and only lives for her son, Adam Her husband, who doesn t really love cherish the disabled boy is currently in Saudi and everyone around her wants her disabled child to join the father, but she refuses as she believes the living conditions for her disabled son are best in the UK.During the trip, all three women let out their ugly sides egos, and start blaming each other for 1 having an affair, 2 taking off the scarf, 3 refusing any intimacy with the husband, each one not really able to see their own shortcomings All three of them are then going through some form of mystic magical development where realism doesn t play a big role any Salma believes her university sweetheart has come to the loch to join her in the form of a runner that she is following Iman is trying on different costumes, cuts her hair, and talks to a bird that tells her mystical stories and Moni is spending her time with a little boy who plays with her and happens to have the same name than her son Salma then loses all her muscles force and becomes all flat Iman loses her femininity and becomes an animal and Moni diminishes in size with every bit of food that she is feeding the little boy who in turn becomes a giant and takes away all her space The flat mat Salma , the animal Iman and the little ball Moni get lost in the forest and the bird comes to help them find their way back Obviously, in the end, the symbolism of it all becomes clear and all three of them can to some extent free themselves from their issues and egos hide spoiler The book tackled lots of different issues from different women s lives that many readers could relate to the feeling of being a failure when your overseas diplomas aren t recognised, marriage and faithfulness after a longer period of being married and taking certain things for granted, the difficulties of being an uneducated female refugee always relying on men to provide for you, the issue of giving up one s own personality and life and relationship to a husband for a child disabled or not , the acceptance or rejection of disabled children in the Arab society, the shallow obsession with titles in the Arab societies Lots of important issues, just maybe not for me at the moment


  6. Umaymah Umaymah says:

    It has to be a 5 star read The folklore mixed with religious and moral lessons I loved that there was no preaching morality or religion but gentle nudges to be the best human one can be, to let life be honest and accept it s changes To live and grow is as sure as our eventual death That thethings change thethey remain the same As always Aboulela grips me with her writing and makes me close my eyes and think deeper The dystopian end was a bit hard for me to fully grasp and I thi It has to be a 5 star read The folklore mixed with religious and moral lessons I loved that there was no preaching morality or religion but gentle nudges to be the best human one can be, to let life be honest and accept it s changes To live and grow is as sure as our eventual death That thethings change thethey remain the same As always Aboulela grips me with her writing and makes me close my eyes and think deeper The dystopian end was a bit hard for me to fully grasp and I think I may need to go back to read it in ameasured pace As always the nuances of Islam and subtle hints that only people of that faith and culture would understand tend to make it hard for non Muslims to totally understand, I don t know if it s deliberate or not


  7. Jessica Jessica says:

    I loved Aboulela sThe Translator, a stunning novel I also liked her early novel, Minaret. Bird Summons was disappointing to me I liked it well enough for the first half, a realisticmainstream treatment than her others I appreciate that the novel centers on friendship, in particular among women, as I don t think that important relationship is explored enough in literary fiction.The novel moves from realism to thefantastical, first with some elements, and then ultimately, to a full I loved Aboulela sThe Translator, a stunning novel I also liked her early novel, Minaret. Bird Summons was disappointing to me I liked it well enough for the first half, a realisticmainstream treatment than her others I appreciate that the novel centers on friendship, in particular among women, as I don t think that important relationship is explored enough in literary fiction.The novel moves from realism to thefantastical, first with some elements, and then ultimately, to a full blown fantastical magical realm I wasn t drawn in by this and couldn t reconcile the rift So the novel s charms and lessons ultimately it seemed pedantic were lost on me


  8. Cecilia Margherita Cecilia Margherita says:

    Leila Abouleila s novel was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review The book will be printed in November, but is already published in the UK and Canada.Salma, moni and Iman are three Muslim women, coming from three different Middle Eastern countries Egypt, Sudan, Syria , with a very varied education and background Some have moved to England for reasons of marriage, others for study and now they are at a turning point in their lives Salma lives a consolidated m Leila Abouleila s novel was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review The book will be printed in November, but is already published in the UK and Canada.Salma, moni and Iman are three Muslim women, coming from three different Middle Eastern countries Egypt, Sudan, Syria , with a very varied education and background Some have moved to England for reasons of marriage, others for study and now they are at a turning point in their lives Salma lives a consolidated marriage and has a devoted husband, but her life as a loving wife and mother no longer satisfies her because of her nostalgia for the past Moni takes care of her son with cerebral palsy, but she cannot count on the support of her husband, who would like to deny the existence of their son and move on with his life Finally, Iman is the youngest and the most attractive of the three She has three marriages behind her and, although she has never been independent, she wants motherhood and domestic happiness The three women are united by a journey Salma, Moni and Iman venture on a journey to Scotland The trip will provide them with an opportunity to reflect on the anxieties, anxieties and doubts of the phase they are going through in their lives Their company will allow them to better understand themselves The narrative is on the whole very enjoyable The rhythm is smooth, but gradually it becomes less and less pressing Although the psychology of the personages is approached in a subtle way, I find that in the end the writer takes us in a rather predictable direction It s not an ugly book overall, on the contrary The Muslim religion is described in a multifaceted way and without generalizations, as well as the life of those who are forced to leave their country of birth and even after years finds themselves regretting the place where they were born and raised The female characters are outlined with delicacy and depth and the image that is given back to us of them is absolutely detailed Although these are not stereotyped women, the author insists too much on describing some of their personality traits and the reading ends up being redundant I think that although their introspection is subtle, the parts dedicated to their thoughts are really too repetitive They slowed down the reading and the rhythm was affected In the complex it remains a good novel and I am convinced that the author has written and will undoubtedly write other works of value, so I will certainly give her another opportunity However, it is not an unforgettable reading or one that leaves its mark


  9. Patti Patti says:

    I had no contact with Miss Aboulela and her style of writing, which means I did not have any special expectations for the book This review is also rather long, because I had quite a lot of thoughts on it.That said, I was definitely surprised how much I liked this book Although it deals with a religious premise, which I can respect yet not follow, it is only a forefront for the emotional journey the characters have to undertake There might be spoilers ahead, so read this review with that in mi I had no contact with Miss Aboulela and her style of writing, which means I did not have any special expectations for the book This review is also rather long, because I had quite a lot of thoughts on it.That said, I was definitely surprised how much I liked this book Although it deals with a religious premise, which I can respect yet not follow, it is only a forefront for the emotional journey the characters have to undertake There might be spoilers ahead, so read this review with that in mind.The first third of the book is a bit slow to read It sets the tone appropriately, yet I often found myself drifting away a bit by the long introductions of the characters I think, after ending it, it was necessary for the book itself, because you need to invest some amount of time into them to respect the place where they finally end their story The 3 main characters had good motivations, were interesting to listen to and also had obvious flaws which might be evenimportant And the author too did a great job to never judge their flaws when she wrote from their characters perspective just as we ourselves would never judge our own flaws first The second part of the book, or at least how I read it, is a bit difficult to grasp I think mainly it presents the possible distractions, problems and missteps of the characters to show the reader what can go wrong when you do not tackle your problems correctly Whether it is Salma spending too much time on her former lover or Moni who refuses to care for herself and not only for others The hopoe also appears a spiritual advisor with great history, but he is only used very delicately and never gives clear directions for Iman to go to.The third section of the book is, as expected, the clashing of all the wrongdoings and the path to resolve them And it pains me to say, but I was not quite happy with the ending The author decided to colour the ending in a magical realism kinda way, visualising it in a dream like scene with the three women It was beautifully written the nature drawn metaphors, the nightmares each woman had for herself, manifesting their worst fears, and the resolution with the Hopoe serving as a guide on the most important step of the journeyIn every journey, there comes a point, around three quarters of the way through, when the traveler, without a guide, can go no furtherThat quote really stuck with me too The realisation of ones need for help in dark times is probably one of the most powerful feelings, and all women in the story felt it s impact.And its weird to say because as much as I loved the ending, it also strikes me that maybe they deserved areal ending Somethingphysical, a real discussion between them, where they found themselves or at least acknowledged their faults This dream lasted for a whole day, not further explained or questioned And I think here is where I failed as a reader to completely understand the spiritual journey as something that might have happened in real life between them Maybe the dream they experienced together is, in reality, a very deep and emotional conversation between the protagonists Or it was just a dream they all had together, and it will be forever a mystery what really happened between them But,importantly, I loved that they were able to find better versions of themselves in the end in a believable fashion, not a complete turnaround for each and every character, but everyone challenged their old way of thinking and found new ones to live after.I was going to give this book 4 stars It sounds childish, but I will change it to 5 because as much as I first questioned the ending, the amount of time spent on thinking about it makes me wonder if that is what the author wanted to achieve I think I am going to pick upbooks from her, hoping she will again surprise me


  10. Leah Leah says:

    I received a digital ARC from Netgalley for a fair and honest review.Wow This book was not what I expected When I read the synopsis I was expecting a road trip story about three friends who had all emigrated to Scotland I was prepared for culture shock, misunderstandings, and some laughs But what Ms Aboulela provided was so muchThis story was a pilgrimage A pilgrimage of the mind, and of the soul Three friends, Salma, Moni, and Iman end up being the last three standing of their trav I received a digital ARC from Netgalley for a fair and honest review.Wow This book was not what I expected When I read the synopsis I was expecting a road trip story about three friends who had all emigrated to Scotland I was prepared for culture shock, misunderstandings, and some laughs But what Ms Aboulela provided was so muchThis story was a pilgrimage A pilgrimage of the mind, and of the soul Three friends, Salma, Moni, and Iman end up being the last three standing of their travel group who end up making the trip into the Scottish Highlands to see the grave of Lady Evelyn Murray, the first white Muslim woman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca Along the way they learn about themselves, each other, and their friendship These three friends all emigrated to Britain one from Egypt, one from Syria, and one from Sudan Each running away from different demons, each running towards their own salvations As with most friendships, each person has their role, the mother figure, the martyr, one that everyone thinks cant take care of themselves, the pretty one, the practical one, etc Along the way, we learn what roles these women play in each other s lives and as the cracks begin to develop and as they begin to question their own existence, their own reality, their own choices, the strain on the friendship begins to grow Once they arrive at their cabin, strange things begin to happen to each woman A bird, a hoopoe, visits one and tells her stories that often have double or hidden meanings, much like fables or scriptures She begins to question her choices and wonders if everything is as it seems The women start to see how their lives could be or could have been, if they had gone down different paths, made different choices Finally, the day to trek to the grave comes and the women must hike to it A pilgrimage to the grave of a woman who showed no fear and didn t care what the world around her thought A woman who was true to herself During their pilgrimage to the grave, the hoopoe appears to women this time as a group and they are shown what they need to see I know that sounds funny, but I don t want to give anything away This is a beautiful story I had never heard of Lady Evelyn before but now, having read a bit about her, knowing how strong her character was and what an inspiration she was to these three women Lady Evelyn didn t fit in with those around her, and neither did these three women, and yet they loved their families and their lives The pilgrimage they made may not have been the Hajj, but the clarity and understanding that they gained from it was still monumental Thank you to Netgalley, the publishers and the author for allowing me to read such a beautiful story


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